Witchcraft isn’t punishable by death like it was in distant history, but it is still surrounded by a variety of misconceptions and false stories. Many times, these misconceptions are held by people who mean innocently enough, but most false myths surrounding witches are rooted in hatred and oppression. The following list includes some of the more common myths and misconceptions about witches that you may have heard or even expressed yourself.

Myth: Witches worship “The Devil”

Believe it or not, even in 2019 there are still people who believe witches are devil worshipers who participate in black masses and hold a variety of evil beliefs. This is a persistent belief held by Christians, that has existed as long as Christianity has existed. It should go without saying that we don’t worship any so-called “Devil.” Most of us don’t even believe in one.

Myth: Witches worship many gods and goddesses

This is both true and false. Of course there are witches who practice polytheism. Wicca is the most popular pagan religion that involves multiple deities. However, not every witch even believes in gods and goddesses, much less worships them. There are atheist witches and agnostic witches, and there are even Christian witches who follow Jesus’s teachings.

Myth: Witches are promiscuous or have oversexed personalities

This is one of those misconceptions that can be viewed as a sort of stereotype. Yes, there are tons of sexually liberated people in the world of paganism. However, not all of us are into overly expressing our sexuality, nor are all of us interested in collecting lovers. There are indeed pagan paths that focus primarily on sexual energy, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but they don’t represent every single witch on the planet.

Myth: Witches believe in past lives

Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca, famously quoted that every witch believes in reincarnation. While this may be true of many spiritual people — and maybe even every Wiccan — it’s not true of every witch. In fact, you can apply any “woo” belief in this category. While there may be entire religious groups of witches that share a common belief, when it comes to individuals, beliefs vary.

Myth: Witches usually dress in all black or in goth fashion

There’s nothing wrong with wearing all black. It’s a versatile color, and it’s always fashionable. Nonetheless, not every witch looks like she got her entire wardrobe off Killstar. Witches come from all walks of life, and many of them are “in the broom closet,” meaning that they keep their practice to them selves. That means a witch can be anybody from the girl in your neighborhood who dresses like Wednesday Addams, to your sweater-wearing granny. Fashion isn’t an indicator of practicing witchcraft, unless the person is brazenly open about her beliefs and wears it like a badge of honor. Not every witch does this.

Myth: Witches ensnare and manipulate their lovers or significant others

There are tons of love spells out there, so it’s easy to see why some people believe that we’re all out there trying to trap romantic conquests. There are also plenty of witches who don’t think twice against casting spells on their boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands or wives. These situations and these types of people exist. Manipulators exist in any group of people, and witches — of course — are people. However, not every person wants to manipulate others — just like not every witch wants to entrap and “enchant” others.

Myth: Witches have familiars that they use in rituals and spells

No, witches do not have familiars. Even if a witch claims that she has a familiar, she does not have one. Even if a witch calls her a pet a familiar, it is not one. Familiars are a concept that originated from Christian belief, and were believed to be soulless creatures that were inhabited by demons and spirits. These demons and spirits were bound to help their witch companions. In modern times, the idea of having a familiar seems to be romanticized by Wiccans and other new age pagans. Nonetheless, familiars do not exist and witches do not have them.

Myth: You’re either a “natural born witch” or a book-taught witch

There is no such thing as a “natural born witch.” This is a movie myth. It’s a fun idea, but — truly — it’s an exclusionary trope that is only designed to make the claimant feel superior or “extra special.” Furthermore, just because you have witches in your ancestry doesn’t make you a superior witch over others. If you have to use tropes like this one to feel special, then you’re probably not spending enough time actually practicing your craft. But that’s none of my business.